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当前位置:主页 > 英国小说 > 德伯家的苔丝 > 第4章 The Consequence后果
第23节 第三十五章 【
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苔丝把事情讲述完了;甚至连反复的申明和次要的解释也作完了。她讲话的声调,自始至终都同她开始讲述时的声调一样,几乎没有升高;她没有说一句辩解的话,也没有掉眼泪。
但是随着她的讲述,甚至连外界事物的面貌也似乎发生了变化。炉桥里的残人露出恶作剧的样子,变得凶恶可怖,仿佛一点儿也不关心苔丝的不幸。壁炉的栅栏懒洋洋的,也似乎对一切视而不见。从水瓶里发出来的亮光,只是一心在研究颜色的问题。周围一切物质的东西,都在可怕地反复申明,它们不负责任。但是自从他吻她的时候以来,什么也没有发生变化;或者不如说,一切事物在本质上都没有发生变化。但是一切事物在本质上又发生了变化。
她讲完过去的事情以后,他们从前卿卿我我的耳边印象,好像一起挤到了他们脑子中的一个角落里去了,那些印象的重现似乎只是他们盲目和愚蠢时期的余音。
克莱尔做一些毫不相干的事,拨了拨炉火;他听说的事甚至还没有完全进入到他的内心里去。他在拨了拨炉火的余烬以后,就站了起来;她自白的力量此刻发作了。他的脸显得憔悴苍老了。他想努力把心思集中起来,就在地板上胡乱地来回走着。无论他怎样努力,他也不能够认真地思考了;所以这正是他盲目地来回走着的意思。当他说话的时候,苔丝听出来,他的最富于变化的声音变成了最不适当和最平常的声音。
“苔丝!”
“哎,最亲爱的。”
“难道要我相信这些话吗?看你的态度,我又不能不把你的话当成真的。啊,你可不像发了疯呀!你说的话应该是一番疯话才对呀!可是你实在正常得很……我的妻子,我的苔丝——你就不能证明你说的那些话是发了疯吗?”
“我并没有发疯!”她说。
“可是——”他茫然地看着她,又心神迷乱地接着说:“你为什么以前不告诉我?啊,不错,你本来是想告诉我的——不过让我阻止了,我记起来了。”
他说的这一番话,还有其它的一些话,只不过是表面上应付故事罢了,而他内心里却像是瘫痪了一样。他转过身去,伏在椅子上。苔丝跟在后面,来到房间的中间,用那双没有泪水的眼睛呆呆地看着他。接着她就软倒在地上,跪在他的脚边,就这样缩成了一团。
“看在我们爱情的份上,宽恕我吧!”她口干舌燥地低声说。“我已经同样地宽恕你了呀!”
但是他没有回答,她又接着说——
“就像我宽恕你一样宽恕我吧!我宽恕你,安琪尔。”
“你——不错,你宽恕我了。”
“可是你也应该宽恕我呀?”
“啊,苔丝,宽恕是不能用在这种情形上的呀!你过去是一个人,现在你是另一个人呀。我的上帝——宽恕怎能同这种荒唐事用在一起呢——怎能像变戏法一样呢!”
他停住了口,考虑着宽恕的定义;接着,他突然发出一阵可怕的哈哈大笑——这是一种不自然的骇人的笑声,就像是从地狱里发出来的笑声一样。
“不要笑了——不要笑了!这笑声会要了我的命的!”她尖叫着。“可怜我吧——可怜我吧!”
他没有回答;她跳起来,脸色像生了病一样苍白。
“安琪尔,安琪尔!你那样笑是什么意思呀?”她叫喊说。“你这一笑对我意味着什么,你知道吗?”
他摇摇头。
“为了让你幸福,我一直在期盼,渴望,祈祷!我想,只要你幸福,那我该多高兴呀,要是我不能让你幸福,我还能算什么妻子呢!这些都是我内心的感情呀,安琪尔!”
“这我都知道。”
“我想,安棋尔,你是爱我的——爱的是我这个人!如果你爱的的确是我,啊,你怎能那样看我,那样对我说话呢?这会把我吓坏的!自从我爱上你以来,我就会永远爱你——不管你发生了什么变化,受到什么羞屏,因为你还是你自己。我不再多问了。那么你怎能,啊,我自己的丈夫,不再爱我呢?”
“我再重复一遍,我以前一直爱的那个女人不是你。”
“那是谁呢?”
“是和你一模一样的另外一个女人。”
她从他的说话中看出,她过去害怕和预感到的事出现了。他把她看成了一个骗子;一个伪装纯洁的荡妇。她意识到这一点,苍白的脸上露出了恐惧;她的脸颊的肌肉松弛下来,她的嘴巴差不多变成了一个小圆洞的样子。他对她的看法竟是如此的可怕,她呆住了,身子摇晃起来;安琪尔走上前去,认为她就要跌倒了。
“坐下来,坐下来,”他温和地说。“你病了;自然你会感到不舒服的。”
她坐了下来,却不知道她坐在什么地方。她的脸仍然是紧张的神情,她的眼神让安琪尔看了直感到毛骨悚然。
“那么我再也不属于你了,是不是,安琪尔?”她绝望地问。“他说他爱的不是我,他爱的是另外一个和我一模一样的女人。”
出现的这个女人的形象引起了她对自己的同情,觉得自己是受了委屈的那个女人。她进一步想到了自己的情形,眼睛里充满了泪水;她转过身去,于是自怜的泪水就像决堤的江水一样流了出来。
看见她大哭起来,克莱尔心里倒感到轻松了,因为刚才发生的事对苔丝的影响开始让他担心起来,其程度仅仅次于那番自白本身引起的痛苦。他耐心地、冷漠地等着,等到后来,苔丝把满腹的悲伤发泄完了,泪如涌泉的痛哭减弱了,变成了一阵阵抽泣。
“安琪尔,”她突然说,这时候她说话的音调自然了,那种狂乱的、干哑的恐怖声音消失了。“安琪尔,我太坏了,你是不能和我住在一起了是不是?”
“我还没有想过我们该怎么办。”
“我不会要求你和我住在一起的,安琪尔,因为我没有权利这样要求!本来我要写信给我的母亲和妹妹,告诉她们我结婚了,现在我也不给她们写信了;我裁剪了一个针线袋子,打算在这儿住的时候缝好的,现在我也不缝了。”
“你不缝了!”
“不缝了,除非你吩咐我做什么,我是什么也不做了;即使你要离开我,我也不会跟着你的;即使你永远不理我,我也不问为什么,除非你告诉我,我才问你。”
“如果我真地吩咐你做什么事呢?”
“我会听你的,就像你的一个可怜的奴隶一样,甚至你要我去死我也会听你的。”
“你很好。但是这让我感到,你现在自我牺牲的态度和过去自我保护的态度少了一些协调。”
这些是他们发生冲突后第一次说的话。把这些巧妙的讽刺用到苔丝身上,就完全像把它们用到猫和狗的身上一样。她领会不到话里微妙的辛辣意味,她只是把它们当作敌意的声音加以接受,知道那表示他在忍受着愤怒。她保持着沉默,不知道他也正在抑制着对她的感情。她也没有看见一滴泪水慢慢地从他的脸上流下来,那是一滴很大的泪水,好像是一架放大镜的目镜,把它流过去的皮肤上的毛孔都放大了。与此同时,他又重新明白过来,她的自白已经完全把他的生活、他的宇宙全都改变了,他想在他新处的环境里前进,但是他绝望了。必须做点儿什么;做什么呢?
“苔丝,”他说,尽量把话说得轻松些,“我不能住在——这个房间里了——就是现在。我要到外面走一走。”
他悄悄地离开了房间,他先前倒出来两杯葡萄酒准备吃晚饭,一杯是倒给她的,一杯是倒给自己的,那两杯酒现在还放在桌子上,动也没有动。这就是他们一场婚宴的下场。在两三个小时以前,他们吃茶点时还相亲相爱,用一个杯子喝酒。
房门在他的身后关上了,就像门被轻轻地拉开一样,但把苔丝从昏沉中惊醒了。他已经走了;她也呆不住了。她急忙把大衣披在身上,打开门跟着走了出去,出去时她把蜡烛吹灭了,仿佛再也不回来似的。雨已经停了,夜晚也清朗了。
不久她就走到了他的身后,因为克莱尔漫无目的,走得很慢。在她谈白色的身影旁边,他的身影是黑色的,阴沉而叫人害怕,她脖子上带的珠宝,她曾一时为之感到骄傲,现在却叫她感到是一种讽刺了。克莱尔听见了她的脚步声,转过身来,不过他虽然认出是她来了,但是却似乎没有改变态度,又继续往前走,走过屋前那座有五个拱洞的大桥。
路上奶牛和马的脚印都积满了水,天上下的雨水虽然把它们淹没了,但是却没有把它们冲刷掉。小水坑映出天上的星星,她从水坑旁边走过的时候,天上的星星也就一闪而过;她要是没有看见水坑里的星星,她就不会知道星星正在她的头顶上闪烁——宇宙中最大的物体竟反映在如此卑微的东西中。
他们今天到的这个地方,还是在泰波塞斯的同一个山谷里,不过在下游几英里的地方;四周是空旷的平地,她很容易就能看见他。有一条路从屋子那儿伸展开去,蜿蜒着穿过草地,她就沿着这条道路跟在克莱尔的后面,不过她并不想追上他,也不想吸引他,而只是默不作声、漫无目的地跟在后面。
她没精打采地走着,后来终于走到了克莱尔的身边,不过他仍然没有说话。诚实如果遭到愚弄,一旦明白过来,常常就会感到巨大的残酷;克莱尔现在的感受就是这样的。户外的空气显然已经消除了他全凭冲动行事的所有倾向;她知道他现在看见她,是觉得她毫无光彩了——她的一切都是平淡无奇了;这时候,时光老人正在吟诵讽刺他的诗句——
看吧,你的脸一暴露出来,爱你的他就要恨你;
在你倒霉的时候,你的脸也不再美丽。
你的生活就像秋叶飘零,像天上的落雨;
你头上的面纱就是悲伤,花冠就成了痛苦。①
 
①引自史文朋的诗剧《在卡里顿的阿塔兰塔》中的合唱《并不像天崩地裂之时》。

他仍然在聚精会神地想着,她的陪伴现在已经没有足够的力量打断或改变他的思想之流。现在她对于他已经变得无足轻重了!她禁不住对克莱尔说开了。
“我做了什么事了——我究竟做了什么事了!我告诉你所有的事,没有一句是假的,或者是装的呀。你不要以为我是在骗你呀,你说是不是?安琪尔,你是在跟你心中想的事生气,而不是在和我生气,是不是?啊,不是在生我的气,我并不是像你认为的那样,是一个骗人的女人哪!”
“哼——好啦。我的妻子不是一个骗人的女人;但已经不是原来同一个人了。不是了,不是同一个人了。但是不要让我责备你。我已经发誓不会责备你;我会尽力不责备你的。”
但是她发狂似地恳求着;说了许多也许不如不说的话。
“安琪尔!——安琪尔!我还是个孩子啊——事情发生的时候我还是个孩子啊!男人的事我还一点也不懂啊。”
“与其说你犯了罪,不如说别人对你犯了罪,这我承认。”
“那么你是不会宽恕我的了?”
“我的确宽恕你了,但是这不是宽恕的问题呀。”
“你还爱我吗?”
关于这个问题,他没有回答。
“啊,安琪尔——我母亲说有时候会发生这种事的!——她就知道好几个这样的例子,比我的情形还要严重啦,但是她们的丈夫都并没有怎样在乎——至少没有成为他们之间的障碍啊。可是她们爱她们的丈夫,都不如我爱你呀!”
“不要说了,不要辩解了。社会不同,规矩就不同。你都快要让我说你是一个不懂事的乡下女人了,从来都不懂得世事人情。你都不知道你说的是什么呀。”
“从地位上看我是一个农民,但是从本质上看我并不是一个农民呀!”
她冲动地说,生起气来,但是气还没有生出来就消失了。
“这对你来说更是糟糕透顶。我倒觉得那个把你的祖先考证出来的牧师,如果他闭上嘴巴反而更好些。我忍不住要把你们家族的衰败同另外的事联系起来——同你缺少坚定联系起来。衰败的家族就意味着衰败的意志,衰败的行为。老天啊,你为什么要告诉我你的身世,给我一个把柄,让我更加瞧不起你呢?我原来以为你是一个自然的新生女儿;谁知道你竟是一个没落了的贵族家庭的后裔呢!”
“在这方面,有许多人家和我完全一样啊!莱蒂家从前是大地主,奶牛场老板毕勒特家也是一样。德比豪斯曾经是德·比叶大家族,现在不也是赶大车的了?像我这样的家族,你到处都找得到;这是我们郡的特点,让我有什么办法呢。”
“所以这个郡就更糟了。”
她只笼统地接受他的指责,但不管指责的细节;她只知道他不像从前那样爱她了,至于其它别的她都不管。
他们默默无言地朝前走。后来据说井桥有个农户,那天深夜出门去请医生,在草地上碰见了一对情人,一前一后地慢慢地走着,不说一句话,就像送葬似的,他瞧了一眼他们的脸色,感觉到他们既忧愁,又伤心。他后来回家时又在相同的地方从他们身边经过,看见他们还在像先前一样慢慢走着,也不管夜色深了,天气冷了。只是他一心想着自己的事,想着自己家里有病人,所以才没有把这件奇怪的事放在心上,是后来过了好久,他才想起来这件事。
就在那个农户从他们身边走过去和回转来的中间,她曾经对她的丈夫说——
“我不知道怎样才能让你一生中不会因为我而遭受太多的痛苦。下面就是河。我就跳河死了吧。我不怕死的。”
“我不想在我的愚蠢上又添上谋杀的罪名,”他说。
“我会给你留下证据,表明是我自杀的——是因为羞耻自杀的。那么他们就不会把罪名加在你身上了。”
“不要说这些荒唐话了——我不想听这个。在这种情形里有这种想法真是胡闹,它不是悲剧的主题,而只是讽刺嘲笑的材料。这场不幸的性质我看你是一点儿也没有明白。要是让人知道了,十个人里头有九个会感到好笑。请你听我的话,回屋睡觉去吧。”
“好吧!”她顺从地说。
他们从那条路上走过去,那条路通向磨坊后面的西斯特教团寺庙的遗迹,在过去的几百年里,那个磨坊一直是寺庙的一部分产业。磨坊还在不断地生产,因为食物是永远需要的;寺庙已经消失了,信仰也成了过眼烟云。我们不断地看到,为短暂的需要服务的东西很长久,而为永久的需要服务的东西却很短暂。他们那天是绕着圈子走的,所以始终离他们的屋子不远,她听从了他的指挥回去睡觉,只要走过那条河上的大石桥,再沿着那条路向前走几码就到了。她回到屋里的时候,炉火还在继续燃着,屋里的一切都还和她离开时一样。她在楼下没有呆上一分钟,就上楼进了自己的房间,她的行李早已经拿进去了。在房间里,她坐在床沿上,茫然地看看四周,就立刻动手脱衣服。她把蜡烛拿到床头,烛光照在白布的帐子顶上,看见里面挂着什么东西,就把蜡烛举起来,想看看是什么。是一束槲寄生。那是安琪尔挂在那儿的;她立刻就心里明白了。这就是原来那个不好包装也不好携带的包裹了;那个包裹里包的是什么东西,安琪尔没有向她解释,只是说到时候她就知道了。那是在他感情热烈、心里快活的时候挂在那儿的。可是那束槲寄生现在看上去,是多么愚蠢、多么不合时宜啊。
他似乎无论如何也不会宽恕她了,既然已经没有什么可怕的了,也没有什么可盼的了,所以她就感觉迟钝地睡下了。一个人在悲伤停止的时候,睡眠就会乘虚而入。许多时候,由于心情快活而不能入睡,现在她的心情反而容易睡着。不一会儿,孤独的苔丝就进入梦乡了,房间里静悄悄的,弥漫着香气,很有可能,这个房间从前还做过她的祖先的洞房呢。那天深夜,克莱尔也沿着原路回了屋子。他轻轻地走进客厅,点上蜡烛,从他的态度上看出来,他已经打定了主意,房间里有一张旧马鬃沙发,他把几床毯子铺在上面,简单地为自己做了一个睡觉的小床。在他睡下之前,他赤着脚走到楼上,在苔丝房间的门口听了听。她均匀的呼吸表明,她已经完全睡熟了。
“感谢上帝!”克莱尔嘟哝着;可是他一想,又感到了一阵钻心的痛苦——他觉得,她现在毫无牵挂地睡着了,却把一生的重担移到了他的肩上,他这种想法虽然不是完全如此,但大致上也是差不多的。
他转身打算下楼;接着,他又犹豫不决地向她的门口转过身去。他转身的时候,一眼看见了德贝维尔家两位贵夫人画像中的一个,那幅画像正好镶在苔丝房门的上方。在蜡烛的照明下,那幅画像更加叫人感到不快。那个女人的脸上暗藏着阴险狡诈的神气,集中了向男人报仇雪恨的心思——他当时看上去的感觉就是这样的。画像女人穿着查理时代的长袍,领口开得很低,正好和苔丝穿的那件让他把领子掖进去好露出项链的衣服一样;这又使他感到苔丝和那个女人的相似之处,因而心里十分难过。
这已经足以使他止步不前了。他就退问来,下楼去了。
他的神情既镇静又冷酷,他的小嘴紧紧闭着,说明他有自我控制的能力;他的脸上仍然是一副令人感到可怕的神情,自从苔丝自我表白以来,他的脸上就有了那副神情。只要有这种神情的男人,就不再会是感情的奴隶,但是也没有从感情的解放中得到什么好处。他只是在那儿思考人类经验中的种种烦恼,思考种种事情的难以预料。直到一个小时以前,他一直崇拜苔丝,很久以来,他都认为不可能有谁比苔丝更纯洁、更甜蜜、更贞洁的了;可是——
只是那么一点点儿,竟然是这样不同!①
 
①见勃朗宁的诗《炉边》第二十九节第二行。

他错误地为自己辩解,心里头在说,从苔丝诚实和生动的脸上,看不透她的内心;不过当时没有人为苔丝辩护,纠正克莱尔的错误。他接着说,是不是有这种可能,她的那双眼睛,里面的神情和嘴里说的并没有什么不同,但是想的心事,和表面上是极不一致的,全然不同的?
他熄了蜡烛,在客厅里那张小床上躺下来。客厅里夜色深沉,对他们的事一点儿也不关心,毫不同情;黑夜已经吞噬掉了他的幸福,现在正在懒洋洋地加以消化;黑夜还准备同样吞噬掉其他干万人的幸福,并且一点儿也不慌乱。
 

Her narrative ended; even its re-assertions and secondary explanations were done. Tess's voice throughout had hardly risen higher than its opening tone; there had been no exculpatory phrase of any kind, and she had not wept.

But the complexion even of external things seemed to suffer transmutation as her announcement progressed. The fire in the grate looked impish - demoniacally funny, as if it did not care in the least about her strait. The fender grinned idly, as if it too did not care. The light from the water-bottle was merely engaged in a chromatic problem. All material objects around announced their irresponsibility with terrible iteration. And yet nothing had changed since the moments when he had been kissing her; or rather, nothing in the substance of things. But the essence of things had changed.

When she ceased the auricular impressions from their previous endearments seemed to hustle away into the corners of their brains, repeating themselves as echoes from a time of supremely purblind foolishness.

Clare performed the irrelevant act of stirring the fire; the intelligence had not even yet got to the bottom of him. After stirring the embers he rose to his feet; all the force of her disclosure had imparted itself now. His face had withered. In the strenuousness of his concentration he treadled fitfully on the floor. He could not, by any contrivance, think closely enough; that was the meaning of his vague movement. When he spoke it was in the most inadequate, commonplace voice of the many varied tones she had heard from him.

`Tess!'

`Yes, dearest.'

`Am I to believe this? From your manner I am to take it as true. O you cannot be out of your mind! You ought to be! Yet you are not... . My wife, my Tess - nothing in you warrants such a supposition as that?'

`I am not out of my mind,' she said.

`And yet--' He looked vacantly at her, to resume with dazed senses: `Why didn't you tell me before? Ah, yes, you would have told me, in a way - but I hindered you, I remember!'

These and other of his words were nothing but the perfunctory babble of the surface while the depths remained paralyzed. He turned away, and bent over a chair. Tess followed him to the middle of the room where he was, and stood there staring at him with eyes that did not weep. Presently she slid down upon her knees beside his foot, and from this position she crouched in a heap.

`In the name of our love, forgive me!' she whispered with a dry mouth. `I have forgiven you for the same!'

And, as he did not answer, she said again--

`Forgive me as you are forgiven! I forgive you, Angel.'

`You - yes, you do.'

`But you do not forgive me?'

`O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case! You were one person; now you are another. My God - how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque - prestidigitation as that!'

He paused, contemplating this definition; then suddenly broke into horrible laughter - as unnatural and ghastly as a laugh in hell.

`Don't - don't! It kills me quite, that!' she shrieked. `O have mercy upon me - have mercy!'

He did not answer; and, sickly white, she jumped up.

`Angel, Angel! what do you mean by that laugh?' she cried out.

`Do you know what this is to me?'

He shook his head.

`I have been hoping, longing, praying, to make you happy! I have thought what joy it will be to do it, what an unworthy wife I shall be if I do not! That's what I have felt, Angel!'

`I know that.'

`I thought, Angel, that you loved me - me, my very self! If it is I you do love, O how can it be that you look and speak so? It frightens me! Having begun to love you, I love you for ever - in all changes, in all disgraces, because you are yourself. I ask no more. Then how can you, O my own husband, stop loving me?'

`I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you.'

`But who?'

`Another woman in your shape.'

She perceived in his words the realization of her own apprehensive foreboding in former times. He looked upon her as a species of impostor; a guilty woman in the guise of an innocent one. Terror was upon her white face as she saw it; her cheek was flaccid, and her mouth had almost the aspect of a round little hole. The horrible sense of his view of her so deadened her that she staggered; and he stepped forward, thinking she was going to fall.

`Sit down, sit down,' he said gently. `You are ill; and it is natural that you should be.'

She did sit down, without knowing where she was, that strained look still upon her face, and her eyes such as to make his flesh creep.

`I don't belong to you any more, then; do I, Angel?, she asked helplessly. `It is not me, but another woman like me that he loved, he says.'

The image raised caused her to take pity upon herself as one who was ill-used. Her eyes filled as she regarded her position further; she turned round and burst into a flood of self-sympathetic tears.

Clare was relieved at this change, for the effect on her of what had happened was beginning to be a trouble to him only less than the woe of the disclosure itself. He waited patiently, apathetically, till the violence of her grief had worn itself out, and her rush of weeping had lessened to a catching gasp at intervals.

`Angel,' she said suddenly, in her natural tones, the insane, dry voice of terror having left her now. `Angel, am I too wicked for you and me to live together?'

`I have not been able to think what we can do.'

`I shan't ask you to let me live with you, Angel, because I have no right to! I shall not write to mother and sisters to say we be married, as I said I would do; and I shan't finish the good-hussif I cut out and meant to make while we were in lodgings.'

`Shan't you?'

`No, I shan't do anything, unless you order me to; and if you go away from me I shall not follow 'ee; and if you never speak to me any more I shall not ask why, unless you tell me I may.'

`And if I do order you to do anything?'

`I will obey you like your wretched slave, even if it is to lie down and die.'

`You are very good. But it strikes me that there is a want of harmony between your present mood of self-sacrifice and your past mood of self-preservation.'

These were the first words of antagonism. To fling elaborate sarcasms at Tess, however, was much like flinging them at a dog or cat. The charms of their subtlety passed by her unappreciated, and she only received them as inimical sounds which meant that anger ruled. She remained mute, not knowing that he was smothering his affection for her. She hardly observed that a tear descended slowly upon his cheek, a tear so large that it magnified the pores of the skin over which it rolled, like the object lens of a microscope. Meanwhile reillumination as to the terrible and total change that her confession had wrought in his life, in his universe, returned to him, and he tried desperately to advance among the new conditions in which he stood. Some consequent action was necessary; yet what?

`Tess,' he said, as gently as he could speak, `I cannot stay - in this room - just now. I will walk out a little way.'

He quietly left the room, and the two glasses of wine that he had poured out for their supper - one for her, one for him - remained on the table untasted. This was what their Agape had come to. At tea, two or three hours earlier, they had, in the freakishness of affection, drunk from one cup.

The closing of the door behind him, gently as it had been pulled to, roused Tess from her stupor. He was gone; she could not stay. Hastily flinging her cloak around her she opened the door and followed, putting out the candles as if she were never coming back. The rain was over and the night was now clear.

She was soon close at his heels, for Clare walked slowly and without purpose. His form beside her light gray figure looked black, sinister, and forbidding, and she felt as sarcasm the touch of the jewels of which she had been momentarily so proud. Clare turned at hearing her footsteps, but his recognition of her presence seemed to make no difference in him, and he went on over the five yawning arches of the great bridge in front of the house.

The cow and horse tracks in the road were full of water, the rain having been enough to charge them, but not enough to wash them away. Across these minute pools the reflected stars flitted in a quick transit as she passed; she would not have known they were shining overhead if she had not seen them there - the vastest things of the universe imaged in objects so mean.

The place to which they had travelled to-day was in the same valley as Talbothays, but some miles lower down the river; and the surroundings being open she kept easily in sight of him. Away from the house the road wound through the meads, and along these she followed Clare without any attempt to come up with him or to attract him, but with dumb and vacant fidelity.

At last, however, her listless walk brought her up alongside him, and still he said nothing. The cruelty of fooled honesty is often great after enlightenment, and it was mighty in Clare now. The outdoor air had apparently taken away from him all tendency to act on impulse; she knew that he saw her without irradiation - in all her bareness; that Time was chanting his satiric psalm at her then--

Behold, when thy face is made bare, he that loved thee shall hate;
Thy face shall be no more fair at the fall of thy fate.
For thy life shall fall as a leaf and be shed as the rain;
And the veil of thine head shall be grief, and the crown shall be pain.

He was still intently thinking, and her companionship had now insufficient power to break or divert the strain of thought. What a weak thing her presence must have become to him! She could not help addressing Clare.
`What have I done - what have I done! I have not told of anything that interferes with or belies my love for you. You don't think I planned it, do you? It is in your own mind what you are angry at, Angel; it is not in me. O, it is not in me, and I am not that deceitful woman you think me!'

`H'm - well. Not deceitful, my wife; but not the same. No, not the same. But do not make me reproach you. I have sworn that I will not; and I will do everything to avoid it.'

But she went on pleading in her distraction; and perhaps said things that would have been better left to silence.

`Angel! - Angel! I was a child - a child when it happened! I knew nothing of men.'

`You were more sinned against than sinning, that I admit.'

`Then will you not forgive me?'

`I do forgive you, but forgiveness is not all.'

`And love me?'

To this question he did not answer.

`O Angel - my mother says that it sometimes happens so! - she knows several cases where they were worse than I, and the husband has not minded it much - has got over it at least. And yet the woman has not loved him as I do you!'

`Don't, Tess; don't argue. Different societies, different manners. You almost make me say you are an unapprehending peasant woman, who have never been initiated into the proportions of social things. You don't know what you say.'

`I am only a peasant by position, not by nature!'

She spoke with an impulse to anger, but it went as it came.

`So much the worse for you. I think that parson who unearthed your pedigree would have done better if he had held his tongue. I cannot help associating your decline as a family with this other fact - of your want of firmness. Decrepit families imply decrepit wills, decrepit conduct. Heaven, why did you give me a handle for despising you more by informing me of your descent! Here was I thinking you a new-sprung child of nature; there were you, the belated seedling of an effete aristocracy!'

`Lots of families are as bad as mine in that! Retty's family were once large landowners, and so were Dairyman Billett's. And the Debbyhouses, who now are carters, were once the De Bayeux family. You find such as I everywhere; 'tis a feature of our county, and I can't help it.'

`So much the worse for the county.'

She took these reproaches in their bulk simply, not in their particulars; he did not love her as he had loved her hitherto, and to all else she was indifferent.

They wandered on again in silence. It was said afterwards that a cottager of Wellbridge, who went out late that night for a doctor, met two lovers in the pastures, walking very slowly, without converse, one behind the other, as in a funeral procession, and the glimpse that he obtained of their faces seemed to denote that they were anxious and sad. Returning later, he passed them again in the same field, progressing just as slowly, and as regardless of the hour and of the cheerless night as before. It was only on account of his preoccupation with his own affairs, and the illness in his house, that he did not bear in mind the curious incident, which, however, he recalled a long while after.

During the interval of the cottager's going and coming, she had said to her husband--

`I don't see how I can help being the cause of much misery to you all your life. The river is down there. I can put an end to myself in it. I am not afraid.'

`I don't wish to add murder to my other follies,' he said.

`I will leave something to show that I did it myself - on account of my shame. They will not blame you then.'

`Don't speak so absurdly - I wish not to hear it. It is nonsense to have such thoughts in this kind of case, which is rather one for satirical laughter than for tragedy. You don't in the least understand the quality of the mishap. It would be viewed in the light of a joke by nine-tenths of the world if it were known. Please oblige me by returning to the house, and going to bed.'

`I will,' said she dutifully.

They had rambled round by a road which led to the well-known ruins of the Cistercian abbey behind the mill, the latter having, in centuries past, been attached to the monastic establishment. The mill still worked on, food being a perennial necessity; the abbey had perished, creeds being transient. One continually sees the ministration of the temporary outlasting the ministration of the eternal. Their walk having been circuitous they were still not far from the house, and in obeying his direction she only had to reach the large stone bridge across the main river, and follow the road for a few yards. When she got back everything remained as she had left it, the fire being still burning. She did not stay downstairs for more than a minute, but proceeded to her chamber, whither the luggage had been taken. Here she sat down on the edge of the bed, looking blankly around, and presently began to undress. In removing the light towards the bedstead its rays fell upon the tester of white dimity; something was hanging beneath it, and she lifted the candle to see what it was. A bough of mistletoe. Angel had put it there; she knew that in an instant. This was the explanation of that mysterious parcel which it had been so difficult to pack and bring; whose contents he would not explain to her, saying that time would soon show her the purpose thereof. In his zest and his gaiety he had hung it there. How foolish and inopportune that mistletoe looked now.

Having nothing more to fear, having scarce anything to hope, for that he would relent there seemed no promise whatever, she lay down dully. When sorrow ceases to be speculative sleep sees her opportunity. Among so many happier moods which forbid repose this was a mood which welcomed it, and in a few minutes the lonely Tess forgot existence, surrounded by the aromatic illness of the chamber that had once, possibly, been the bride-chamber of her own ancestry.

Later on that night Clare also retraced his steps to the house. Entering softly to the sitting-room he obtained a light, and with the manner of one who had considered his course he spread his rugs upon the old horse-hair sofa which stood there, and roughly shaped it to a sleeping-couch. Before lying down he crept shoeless upstairs, and listened at the door of her apartment. Her measured breathing told that she was sleeping profoundly.

`Thank God!' murmured Clare; and yet he was conscious of a pang of bitterness at the thought - approximately true, though not wholly so - that having shifted the burden of her life to his shoulders she was now reposing without care.

He turned away to descend; then, irresolute, faced round to her door again. In the act he caught sight of one of the d'Urberville dames, whose portrait was immediately over the entrance to Tess's bedchamber. In the candlelight the painting was more than unpleasant. Sinister design lurked in the woman's features, a concentrated purpose of revenge on the other sex - so it seemed to him then. The Caroline bodice of the portrait was low - precisely as Tess's had been when he tucked it in to show the necklace; and again he experienced the distressing sensation of a resemblance between them.

The check was sufficient. He resumed his retreat and descended.

His air remained calm and cold, his small compressed mouth indexing his powers of self-control; his face wearing still that terribly sterile expression which had spread thereon since her disclosure. It was the face of a man who was no longer passion's slave, yet who found no advantage in his enfranchisement. He was simply regarding the harrowing contingencies of human experience, the unexpectedness of things. Nothing so pure, so sweet, so virginal as Tess had seemed possible all the long while that he had adored her, up to an hour ago; but

The little less, and what worlds away!
He argued erroneously when he said to himself that her heart was not indexed in the honest freshness of her face; but Tess had no advocate to set him right. Could it be possible, he continued, that eyes which as they gazed never expressed any divergence from what the tongue was telling, were yet ever seeing another world behind her ostensible one, discordant and contrasting.
He reclined on his couch in the sitting-room, and extinguished the light. The night came in, and took up its place there, unconcerned and indifferent the night which had already swallowed up his happiness, and was now digesting it listlessly; and was ready to swallow up the happiness of a thousand other people with as little disturbance or change of mien.